The preparation of a satisfactory dissertation normally requires at least four years of full-time research. All students are expected to provide a public presentation of their Ph.D. research as part of their program requirements. The dissertation defense includes:

  • A public presentation of the student's Ph.D research to which members of the CCB community will be invited
  • The private Ph.D. dissertation defense before the Dissertation Defense Committee (generally the GAC)

Students must submit the dissertation to the Dissertation Defense Committee at least 7 days before the defense date. The final manuscript must conform to the requirements described online on the GSAS website here.

Once the date, time, and location of the dissertation defense has been scheduled by the student with the Committee Members, the student must notify Kathy Oakley in the Department Office, who will send an email announcement to CCB faculty, graduate students, and postdocs inviting them to the public presentation. The CCB Doctoral Dissertation Form must be submitted 1-2 weeks prior to the defense to Kathy Oakley in the Department office, M-132.  Please contact her with any questions. 

GSAS Thesis Requirements

All PhD candidates are required to submit a copy of the dissertation via the ETDs @ Harvard submission tool by the deadline established for each degree conferral date. (See the GSAS Degree Calendar page for more information on deadlines.) Dissertations must be submitted electronically to ETDs following their guidelines, including the requirement of embedded fonts. Note that GSAS rules supersede those of ETDs for format.

Program Completion Date

For international students on an F-1 visa, the F-1 visa will end on the program completion date. The program completion date is not necessarily the defense date. It is the date the student stops working in the lab, and any salary/stipend would be ended on that date. International graduate students on an F-1 visa may continue working in the lab as students after their defense until the dissertation submission deadline, if the PI agrees to pay them and they are still completing graduate research in their lab.  International students should wait until the week of their program completion date before submitting their dissertation, while being careful to meet all GSAS deadlines. U.S. citizens may continue working in in the lab as students after their defense until the end of the term, if the PI agrees to pay them and they are still completing graduate research in their lab.

Dissertation Embargo Requests

If necessary, students may request to delay the release of (“embargo”) their work when submitting their dissertation to ETDs @ Harvard. Embargo requests greater than two years must be approved by the Department. For embargoes over two years, students must first get the approval of their advisor. Written approval from their advisor and a strong written academic reason for the embargo must be forwarded to the Co-Director of Graduate Studies, Joe Lavin, for departmental approval. Students should not begin the process until they have permission of their advisor.